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Analysing Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy Data Accurately and Efficiently with APEX™ Software

APEX™ is EDAX's intuitive and user-friendly software program for the collection and analysis of Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) data.

In this interview Tara Nylese, Global Applications Manager at EDAX, talks to AZoM about the new features of APEX™ software which is designed for all levels of users.

Please could you tell us a bit about EDAX and the work you do there?

I am the Global Applications Manager at EDAX, which means that I work with a talented group of scientists around the world, who help spread our technical knowledge amongst our customers throughout many universities, prestigious industries, and across a whole range of exciting applications.

The applications group performs activities such as sales support and demonstrations to show how our systems can be used to help solve customer problems, all the way through to training, either in formal training classes or casual workshops at universities, and even some web training.

Furthermore, we take all the knowledge of customer work, and incorporate it into the development process at EDAX to ensure we design products for real world user needs.

Talking to customers each day allows us to meet customer needs, and then use that knowledge to focus on future products to achieve the best positioning in the market.

Tell us why the Apex was developed?

APEX™ was developed and designed with input from our applications team to the meet the real-world customer requirements. Talking to at least a dozen or so customers each week, we observe and adjust to changes in market trends, and this determines how we design our products.

The applications group identified a shift towards first time users and people who weren't dedicated microscopists, microanalysts or in a high-tech industry. We developed our software to suit people who don't focus exclusively on microscopy and microanalysis and just want to complete their software or analysis in a very quick and easy to understand manner.

APEX™ CompoMap showing separated P K and Zr L overlapping peaks.

APEX™ CompoMap showing separated P K and Zr L overlapping peaks.

Tell us some of the features of the APEX?

With the latest APEX™ release, we have been able to apply it to our higher performing Octane Elect detectors and standard level systems, which means that it can accommodate a clear majority of user needs. One of the main features is drift correction, which means that even with longer collections or more challenging analysis, such as polymers and non-conductive materials, we are assured the best images.

Another exciting feature is the compo maps function which is a revamp of a long-time software feature. We've put it into an easy to use interface so that customers can understand the true chemistry of their samples by separating out some of the peaks that overlap. Without compo maps, in some cases you would have ambiguous or confusing information.

We once had a customer in a geological field that said, "That doesn't make sense to me. Those elements shouldn't be in combination". Once we implemented the compo maps he said, "That makes much more sense, having those peaks fully resolved and separated".

The CPS maps that EDAX offers are now also incorporated into the APEX™ software. CPS maps allow the user to view the counts per seconds, or CPS, at each pixel in an image.  This highlights sample variations in topography or x-ray excitation which reveals the true chemistry of the material.  

Traditionally we had the electron image and elemental x-ray maps. Now we have the actual total x-ray counts per pixel. This gives our users a more comprehensive understanding of the material.

Can APEX be customized?

We have two levels of APEX™ customized software. The standard level would be for people who have only started out in microscopy and microanalysis.

The more advanced microscopists and micro analysts would take advantage of the APEX™ Advanced software platform. This includes some of the newer features such as the drift correction and compo maps capability.

We also have report generators in which the user can design and customize the template for all their data. This function also allows the users to generate reports tailored to their specific needs.

Tell us about the benefits that a user will see from the new APEX software?

The most apparent benefit is how quick and easy the APEX™ software is to navigate. It has many intuitive functions, familiar icons, and software layouts similar to what users encounter with iPhones and tablets. APEX™ has incorporated those functionalities and software routines to make it easier for the user to achieve the benefits.

Another huge benefit of APEX™ software is that you can customize your user interface to allow the user to focus on their specific area of interest. We included color schemes that make for a more enjoyable user interface to operate in or to match their SEM interface. For example, users working in a dark microscope room can use a darker interface of the software which will allow a more pleasant experience.

How does APEX software compare to other models on the market? What sets it apart?

The APEX™ software has been designed to be easier and more flexible for all levels of users. We are confident that even the entry-level user will easily adopt it, and the advanced user will be able to satisfy their needs with the software. APEX™ is the first software that has been designed to accommodate the full range of user needs, with flexibility, ease of navigation, and advanced capability.

How have the changes in the hardware impacted the software?

The changes in the hardware over the last two or three years have been so exciting. Here at EDAX we offer a revolutionary detector change using a Silicon Nitride thinner window and modern fast electronics processing.

This detector technology, unique to EDAX, performs collection faster, and we are able to do x-ray mapping within just a few seconds or minutes of collection. Our input x-ray count rates can be over one and a half million counts per second input.

This means that the hardware sends a signal very quickly to the software, which then collects a spectrum and displays live time analysis. For example, you can collect a spectrum and automatically get a peak ID on it within a few seconds.

You will know which elements are present and you will be able to see the quantitative analysis, concentrations of the elements present and even graphs and charts. The APEX™ software produces bar charts with actual concentrations of the elements present, or pie charts with the concentrations.

Tell us about some of the applications and industries that will benefit from the APEX software?

This has been exciting. As a microscopist in the field for over 20 years, I've seen the industry change significantly. Typically, one user from a company would be dedicating all their time on a system. However recently microscopy and microanalysis has broadened in terms of applications and industries that are adopting the technique for the first time.

These can include factory floors, production lines, and assembly lines having an SEM and an EDS system right there on the production floor. They can perform quality control immediately at the factory line and go directly to the microscope to magnify the defect or damaged part, and to do a chemical analysis of that defect.

We see that these technologies are going into less technologically advanced fields and into universities that previously didn’t have access to expensive instrumentation.

These capabilities were once in large universities that had full characterization centers and a lot of funding. However now we're seeing some growth in smaller universities, liberal arts colleges, and even some community colleges are adopting microscopy and microanalysis tools as they are more cost-effective.

APEX™ element colour selector window

APEX™ element colour selector window

What are some of the important components that will impact the future of microscopy with the APEX?

With APEX™ software, more people can easily adopt microscopy and microanalysis as they may not be as intimidated by certain advanced techniques like electron microscopy.

A 20,000-volt electron beam creating x-rays on your sample may sound difficult, however we have made the APEX™ software more of a push button collection, which has made collecting some x-ray analysis data effortless.

To be able to place an electron beam on a small failure and get x-ray compositional analysis in seconds has become a simple process.

For example, if you have an unknown substance on an electrical component, within wear debris, or on a piece of forensics evidence, you can target that substance and determine what it is. Something that could cause a failure can now be quickly and easily determined in just a few seconds.

Where can our readers go to find out more?

To find out more please visit our website https://www.edax.com/

About Tara Nylese

Tara Nylese is the EDAX Global Applications Manager, based in the Mahwah office. Tara works with EDS, EBSD and WDS technologies. Tara started her career in microanalysis primarily with SEM/EDS based techniques and over the course of her 20 years with EDAX has added the additional capabilities into her analytical approaches.

Tara Nylese

Tara holds a Master’s degree in Chemistry with a Professional Science Masters (PSM), which gives her an understanding of the commercial end of applied science and technology for the benefit of real world industry and business solutions. She spends most of her time at EDAX working directly with customers, from new system evaluation through training, on-going customer support, and bringing customer feedback into the future of EDAX for real world solutions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Mychealla Rice

Written by

Mychealla Rice

Mychealla graduated from Northumbria University in Newcastle with a 2:1 in Journalism with English Literature. Mychealla is a keen traveller, spending time in Australia, Thailand and Italy. Mychealla plans to see more of Europe in the future. Mychealla’s interests include photography and music. In her spare time, she likes to go shopping and visit family and friends back in Ireland.

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